We bought the tickets for Italy the day after Renesmee turned three months. I planned for it to be a very short trip, so I hadn't told Charlie about it. Jacob knew, and he took Edward's view on things. However, today the argument was about Brazil. Jacob was determined to come with us.
The three of us, Jacob, Renesmee, and I, were hunting together. The diet of animal blood wasn't Renesmee's favorite thing - and that was why Jacob was allowed to come along. Jacob had made it a contest between them, and that made her more willing than anything else.
Renesmee was quite clear on the whole good vs. bad as it applied to hunting humans; she just thought that donated blood made a nice compromise. Human food filled her and it seemed compatible with her system, but she reacted to all varieties of solid food with the same martyred endurance I had once given cauliflower and lima beans. Animal blood was better than that, at least. She had a competitive nature, and the challenge of beating Jacob made her excited to hunt.
"Jacob," I said, trying to reason with him again while Renesmee danced ahead of us into the long clearing, searching for a scent she liked. "You've got obligations here. Seth, Leah - "
He snorted. "I'm not my pack's nanny. They've all got responsibilities in La Push anyway."
"Sort of like you? Are you officially dropping out of high school, then? If you're going to keep up with Renesmee, you're going to have to study a lot harder."
"It's just a sabbatical. I'll get back to school when things... slow down."
I lost my concentration on my side of the disagreement when he said that, and we both automatically looked at
Renesmee. She was staring at the snowflakes fluttering high above her head, melting before they could stick to the yellowed grass in the long arrowhead-shaped meadow that we were standing in. Her ruffled ivory dress was just a shade darker than the snow, and her reddish-brown curls managed to shimmer, though the sun was buried deeply behind the clouds.
As we watched, she crouched for an instant and then sprang fifteen feet up into the air. Her little hands closed around a flake, and she dropped lightly to her feet.
She turned to us with her shocking smile - truly, it wasn't something you could get used to - and opened her hands to show us the perfectly formed eight-pointed ice star in her palm before it melted.
"Pretty," Jacob called to her appreciatively. "But I think you're stalling, Nessie."
She bounded back to Jacob; he held his arms out at exactly the moment she leaped into them. They had the move perfectly synchronized. She did this when she had something to say. She still preferred not to speak aloud.
Renesmee touched his face, scowling adorably as we all listened to the sound of a small herd of elk moving farther into the wood.
"Suuuureyou're not thirsty, Nessie," Jacob answered a little sarcastically, but more indulgently than anything else. "You're just afraid HI catch the biggest one again!"
She flipped backward out of Jacob's arms, landing lightly on her feet, and rolled her eyes - she looked so much like Edward when she did that. Then she darted off toward the trees.
"Got it," Jacob said when I leaned as if to follow. He yanked his t-shirt off as he charged after her into the forest, already trembling. "It doesn't count if you cheat," he called to Renesmee.
I smiled at the leaves they left fluttering behind them, shaking my head. Jacob was more a child than Renesmee sometimes.
I paused, giving my hunters a few minutes' head start. It would be beyond simple to track them, and Renesmee would love to surprise me with the size of her prey. I smiled again.
The narrow meadow was very still, very empty. The fluttering snow was thinning above me, almost gone. Alice had seen that it wouldn't stick for many weeks.
Usually Edward and I came together on these hunting trips. But Edward was with Carlisle today, planning the trip to Rio, talking behind Jacob's back.... I frowned. When I returned, I would take Jacob's side. He should come with us. He had as big a stake in this as any of us - his entire life was at stake, just like mine.
While my thoughts were lost in the near future, my eyes swept the mountainside routinely, searching for prey, searching for danger. I didn't think about it; the urge was an automatic thing.
Or perhaps there was a reason for my scanning, some tiny trigger that my razor-sharp senses had caught before I realized it consciously.
As my eyes flitted across the edge of a distant cliff, standing out starkly blue-gray against the green-black forest, a glint of silver - or was it gold? - gripped my attention.
My gaze zeroed in on the color that shouldn't have been there, so far away in the haze that an eagle wouldn't have been able to make it out. I stared.
She stared back.
That she was a vampire was obvious. Her skin was marble white, the texture a million times smoother than human skin. Even under the clouds, she glistened ever so slightly. If her skin had not given her away, her stillness would have. Only vampires and statues could be so perfectly motionless.
Her hair was pale, pale blond, almost silver. This was the gleam that had caught my eye. It hung straight as a ruler to a blunt edge at her chin, parted evenly down the center.
She was a stranger to me. I was absolutely certain I'd never seen her before, even as a human. None of the faces in my muddy memory were the same as this one. But I knew her at once from her dark golden eyes.
Irina had decided to come after all.
For one moment I stared at her, and she stared back. I wondered if she would guess immediately who I was as well. I half-raised my hand, about to wave, but her lip twisted the tiniest bit, making her face suddenly hostile.
I heard Renesmee's cry of victory from the forest, heard Jacob's echoing howl, and saw Irina's face jerk reflexively to the sound when it echoed to her a few seconds later. Her gaze cut slightly to the right, and I knew what she was seeing. An enormous russet werewolf, perhaps the very one who had killed her Laurent. How long had she been watching us? Long enough to see our affectionate exchange before, I was sure.